Oat and cherry biscuits

Cookbook Challenge 2011: Fortnight 9,
Theme: Crunchy
Recipe: Oat and cherry biscuits aka Big Fat Thin Anzac Biscuits
Adapted from: Bourke Street Bakery

The Easter holiday this year has been fantastic! For any non-Australians, the Easter weekend coincided with Anzac Day, which meant a five day weekend for most people (or a 10 day weekend for me, because I took this week off!).

Maria and Daz invited us to a picnic for the Anzac Day public holiday, and I took the opportunity to make my Cookbook Challenge post for “crunchy”, taking along a variation of the Anzac biscuit. We ate food, drank wine and beer, had desserts, and then we played a cut-throat game of Kubb. There was a lot of screaming and insult hurling involved. So if you were in the vicinity of Queen’s Park on the Anzac Day holiday, no doubt you would have heard us. Major apologies!


Garden Tuscany

Disclosure: I was invited to check out Garden Tuscany. Drinks and sweet things were complimentary, and we returned on a different day and paid for pizzas.

If someone said to me, “I’ve opened a cafe in my backyard!” I would think that they were well on their way to CrazyTown. But that’s what Stella and Sam of Garden Tuscany did, and not only are they definitely not in CrazyTown, it really works!


Hot Cross Buns

Cookbook Challenge 2011: Fortnight 7
Theme: Celebration
Recipe: Hot cross buns
From: Australian Women’s Weekly Bake

We’re backtracking a fortnight to the celebration theme for the Cookbook Challenge, which you may remember I skipped over because I dropped a cake into the sink. Well, I’m back on theme and since it’s Easter, I rather predictably made hot cross buns. (Side note: I just had a sudden brain dead moment and couldn’t remember the word “predictably”! Gak!)

International Cake Pop Incident Party

International Incident Cake Pops Party

Time for another IIP party, and this month the theme is cake pops. Our host, Penny, also has her birthday this month – happy birthday dear! 🙂

I have a bit of a sad tale to tell. I tried making cake pops and failed! Buh bow! And with no time to do redo them, I figured I may as well show that it’s not always success, cupcakes and fairy floss in my kitchen!

I think it just wasn’t meant to be. First, I couldn’t find lollipop sticks – I went to four different shops and couldn’t track any down, so I settled on popsicle sticks. Then, I had a BRILLIANT idea. I thought I’d make cake popsicles (since I had the sticks!) and thought that I might be able to make cheesecake popsicles. Except… they didn’t harden enough to be able to pull them out of the molds. 🙁 I had increased the amount of gelatine in the cheesecake, but obviously didn’t add enough. I tried freezing them, but I was on a limited time schedule and after several hours when they still hadn’t frozen I went to Plan B.

Plan B was freezer cake. Since I didn’t have enough time to bake a cake and let it cool, I decided to use some cupcakes and frosting I had stashed in the freezer. Such a fantastic idea! I defrosted the cakes and frosting, and mixed them together before forming them into balls.

Then I dipped the popsicle sticks into melted chocolate and inserted them into the balls. They were looking good at this stage. I managed to successfully dip one of them into melted chocolate and coat it in crushed biscuits.

Sadly, it was all downhill from there. That one lonely cake pop was my only successful one.

Perhaps my balls were too large and heavy, because I couldn’t get them to stay on the sticks! Look at this sad character – can you hear his cry for help?

I gave up, but I’m sure that the other participants were far more successful in their cake pop attempts! Check them out below, or go to the IIP forum for a round up.

Mr Carsisi, Kyneton

I’ve been meaning to visit Kyneton for years. Literally years. I have a friend at work who lives in Kyneton, and I have worked with her for 7+ years. And that’s how long I’ve been meaning to visit for!

Recently I was talking to her about Kyneton, and decided – you know what? Seven years is long enough. I’m going for a visit! So last weekend I rounded up Alastair, Bro, Maz and Daz, and we drove up to have lunch at Mr Carsisi.

Cookbook Challenge 2011: Fortnight 8, Eggs

Theme: Eggs
Recipe: Tamago
Cookbook: AWW Kitchen

On to Fortnight 8 of the Cookbook Challenge, and the theme is “eggs”. I doubt anyone is keeping track, but I’ve skipped the 7th theme, which is “celebration”. I baked a cake for celebration, but I’m not going to post it because it turned out to be a big ugly thing. And to make matters worse, I dropped it into the (thankfully clean) sink when trying to remove it from the tin. Ugh! After all that, I couldn’t bear to photograph it – I didn’t feel like celebrating the failcake.

(Though I did save failcake from the sink with no ill effects. It turned out to be a really delicious cake. Ugly, but delicious.)

So I’ll come back to celebration another time – let’s just move on to eggs!

Comme Kitchen

Recently I went on a girls’ night out with friends, Emily and Jo. Nothing dodgy of course, just a nice dinner at a semi-flashy restaurant. 🙂 We went to Comme Kitchen (a 1-hat restaurant in the Good Food Guide, if you’re into that sort of thing), which is located in a beautiful, historical building down a cobblestone laneway. As you walk in, you’re greeted by a grand staircase, and to the right is a large bar area with soaring high ceilings. The dining room, adjacent to the bar and tucked under the staircase, is much smaller and more intimate, only seating about 40 people.

Essence Restaurant at the Marriott

Disclosure: Alastair and I dined courtesy of Essence Restaurant.

I was invited in for a meal at Essence Restaurant at the Marriott Hotel recently – the publicist said they were inviting bloggers because they wanted to find a new photographer for two (paid) shoots for their 2011 menu. Sounded good to me, so I headed down to check it out with Alastair.

The entrance to Essence Restaurant is located to the side of the Marriott Hotel foyer. It’s a large room, with polished floor boards, and big floor to ceiling windows looking out to Exhibition and Lonsdale Streets.

To start with, we shared some oysters, one of the specials they were running that month. Half of the oysters came out with smoked salmon, feta and dill. Being a person who generally prefers oysters natural, I found the salmon and feta too overpowering for the oysters – it detracted from their natural flavour.

The other half of the oysters were better – coming with a splash of salty, vinegary dressing and a dollop of roe.

For mains, Alastair ordered steak (I think it was the grain fed scotch fillet), which was served with a roast portabello mushroom, vine ripened tomatoes, hand cut fries and red wine jus. He requested it medium rare. Unfortunately, it was cooked to past medium and strangely bland.

I ordered the lamb rump, served with potato fondant, mushroom ragout, green beans and truffle oil. The lamb was nice – the meat was tender and I enjoyed the mushroom sauce that came with it.

However, the potato was strange. It was really gluggy and tasteless. Poor potato. 🙁

On to desserts. Alastair’s dessert, a chocolate fondant with macerated strawberries and ice cream, was a special that month that the waiter recommended. A different waiter brought it to the table and tried to give it to me. I had to hold back a snicker, because I’m not surprised they thought it was mine – it was a rather girly looking dessert!

As you can see, when the fondant came to the table it was still in the silicon heart mould, which I thought looked a bit strange. And the centre of the fondant was cooked through – sadly, no flowing chocolate core for Alastair.

I had the baked cheesecake with cinnamon poached pear, sticky wine syrup and a dollop of cinnamon cream. The cheesecake tasted nice, however I found the texture was very heavy and dense – too much so for my tastes.

Overall, I thought the food was okay but not terribly exciting. While the presentation of the food was good, unfortunately most of the dishes we tried had an aspect that marred them. And with mains at around the $30 mark, I would expect more consistency if I was paying.

Alastair remarked that our meal reminded him of eating at hotel restaurants on business trips, and it does have that hotel restaurant ambiance and feel. To be fair, it could be completely different on a busier evening. We were there on a Tuesday night and it was VERY quiet. We were seated by the windows, and besides us there would have been literally three other tables. During our meal, only about four other diners came in – people who were obviously lone business travellers. Essence is quite a large restaurant and I felt that the atmosphere suffered because it was so quiet. I wonder if there is a way to screen off parts of the room on quieter nights to make it seem cozier and less like sitting in an empty restaurant.

I’ve found it very hard to write this post because I don’t want to be unduly harsh but nor do I want to gloss over the negatives. I know that running a restaurant is hard work, and I applaud people who cook night after night for others – I couldn’t do it! However, I do feel that Essence could be improved. More consistency in what comes out would be a good start. Beyond that it would be nice to see more innovation in the food, or something more to spark some interest, to elevate it past an average hotel restaurant.

For other opinions, check out these blogs:

  • I Eat Therefore I Am
  • Almost Always Ravenous
  • 1001 Dinners 1001 Nights
  • Gastrology
  • [googleMap name=”Essence Restaurant at the Marriott Hotel” width=”600″ height=”300″ directions_to=”false”]Corner Exhibition and Lonsdale Street, Melbourne, VIC, Australia[/googleMap]

    Essence Restaurant at the Marriott Hotel
    Corner Exhibition and Lonsdale Street
    Phone: (03) 9660 1183
    Web: essence.melbournemarriott.com.au

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